Two teams going in different directions will take the court Friday when the Indiana Pacers host the Atlanta Hawks for the second of three meetings this season.
The Pacers, despite their 119-113 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, have won six of their last eight games. The Hawks, coming off a 114-105 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, have lost six of their last eight.
The Pacers won the first game between the teams, 129-114 on Dec. 27 thanks to a 28-point, nine-rebound performance from Buddy Hield. The teams finish their season series on March 25 in Atlanta.
Hield was nearly the hero again against the Knicks. His four-point play with 1:22 left cut the margin to three points, but he missed a shot on the ensuing possession that would have tied the game. He scored 31 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including seven 3-pointers, and had eight rebounds. Hield is averaging 18.3 points.
The Pacers will be without leading scorer Tyrese Haliburton, who hurt his left knee against the Knicks and left the arena on crutches. Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said Haliburton is questionable for the game against Atlanta and Saturday versus Memphis.
“One of the great things about Tyrese is he has been banged up the last year and a half that he’s been with us, and he always wants to play,” Carlisle said. “He always wants to play and it’s something that’s really helped our culture as a team. So, we’ll hope for the best. We’re surely not going to put him in harm’s way.”
Haliburton was injured in the third quarter when he landed awkwardly on a contested layup, losing his shoe on the play. Haliburton is averaging 20.2 points, 10.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
The Hawks played without All-Star guard Trae Young on Wednesday against the Bucks. Young, who averages 27.5 points and 9.8 assists, was out with a non-COVID related illness. His status for Friday’s game is not yet determined.
Atlanta could have used Young when it erased a 24-point second-half deficit against the Bucks and took a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter but then could not hold on.
“We did a better job applying pressure in the second half,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “In the second half we got more pressure, disrupted more and were able to get some stops.”
Veteran Bogdan Bogdanovic came off the bench to lead the Hawks with 22 points. But Atlanta struggled without Young and center Clint Capela, who has missed eight straight games with a nagging right thigh strain.
The Hawks may be ready to use veteran Derrick Favors to help inside. Atlanta signed Favors to a 10-day contract, even though he has not played all season. He could alleviate some of the pressure on Onyeka Okongwu, who has started in Capela’s absence.
Favors averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hawks veteran Frank Kaminsky got extended minutes on Wednesday and produced a season-high 13 points.
–Field Level Media